Words: Surj Gish & The CityBike Wrecking Crew
Photos: Bungee Brent, Max Klein, Surj Gish
Bungee Brent—rock ‘n’ roll/sports photographer extraordinaire, OMC member, and most importantly, friend of CityBike—does a Backroad Bash every year. The Bash is a two-day, scenic dual-sport ride that is suitable for any skill level from beginner to expert. And, perhaps to the chagrin of “real riders” more interested in camping out a thousand miles from nowhere, while there are two days of solid riding, the ride is HQ’ed at the friendly and groovy Long Barn Lodge, in, you guessed it, Long Barn, so you sleep in a bed, and there’s even live music Saturday night.
It’s a great weekend for a great cause—the proceeds benefit the UC Davis Cancer Center and A Song For Wellness. Last year, two of us went up to Long Barn and managed to return with only one disabled bike, somehow not the bike that was crashed.
This year, we went hard in the paint and headed towards Long Barn in Big Fancy, CityBike’s aging F150 long bed. It was slow going—Big Fancy ain’t real fast to start with, and she was way overloaded, between the trailer, five people, five bikes, and miscellaneous crap stowed in every remaining empty spot. Fortunately, High Desert J, being a real rider and all that, was traveling by KLR and met us in Long Barn, so that saved us whatever a KLR weighs… 800 pounds or whatever.
This year, six went to Long Barn, and six returned, with six functional bikes—probably a new record for a CityBike outing. Unfortunately, with all the Wrecking, some of the Crew ended a little worse for the wear. An used her legs as sacrificial padding to save her KTM from a few new scratches, and ended up with huge, sickly-green bruises on her legs, like the size of a boot sole. I managed to break a couple bones in my right foot, really tweak the same ankle, and bruise a few ribs. I also managed to put off going in for x-rays for two whole days, and was rewarded by a gasp from the tech when she saw all the lovely purple bruising on my foot.
You should totally go next year.
Sam: Dirt Noob #1
It’s a lovely day and I’m fumbling for the rear brakes. I’ve ridden cruisers down fire trails before and horsed around in gravel parking lots, but this is my first time rockin’ knobbies in a national forest. And it’s great. Just moments after we leave the pavement it hits me: this is going to be fun.
We crawl down steep, rocky trails, rip through pine groves and blast through a water crossing. We roll through a meadow and take a break by one of the widest trees I’ve ever seen. A funky, white-bearded attendee explains that the Bennett Juniper is at least two thousand years old, older than any other known Juniper.
Moving on, we weave up a sandy hill and the back-end goes loose. It reminds me of piloting a jet-ski—just keep it pointed where you want to go and don’t pay too much attention to the shenanigans of the meandering rear end.
I thought we had surely hit some motorcycle-only routes, but when we get to the top, I’m surprised to see four Jeeps.
“How was that trail for you guys?” I ask.
“Ah,” one driver responds, waving a hand. “Two-wheel drive the whole way.”
Oh well, guess I’m still a noob…
After breathing in a beautiful view of the granite planes of the Emigrant Wilderness, it’s time to head back down. The rear wheel locks up and I get tense, skidding down a steep hill. But then it hits me: this feels like a mixture of snowboarding and lane splitting on Oak street. I’m switching from side to side, sliding down the mountain, skidding out the rear end and staying upright and balanced. At least the big rocks won’t suddenly cut me off while texting.
Photo: Bungee Brent.
The Bennett Juniper. Photo: Surj Gish.
Max: KLR #1
As I have proven time and time again, I don’t really go about things the way that many things should be gone about. I started racing flat track after a very short time on a dirtbike. I bought an engagement ring just three months after meeting my beautiful wife. Why should my dual-sport debut be any different?
Sure I have taken bikes on fire roads and even some tighter trails, but never for 200 miles (what was our total mileage anyway?) and never on my KLR with a group made up of mostly proper dirtbikes.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, for starters I could humiliate myself in front of the rest of the CityBike Wrecking Crew and lose whatever respect they might still have for me after spending a few hours in Big Fancy.
The route was a fun mix of smoothly paved sweepers and fire roads with some difficult routes thrown in for those aforementioned proper dirtbikes, or in my case a pig of a KLR to go play on.
Yes. I failed to stick close enough to the rider in front of me and ended up zigging where I should have zagged. I found out the next morning that the rock-laden, confidence-devastating section on which I’d nearly whiskey-throttled my KLR into a tumbling backflip was indeed not intended for me, my bike, or my sub-par skillset.
But I had a very good time on this ride and have already started thinking about what I can do to make the ride more pleasurable. *COUGH PROPER DIRTBIKE*.
Have I mentioned how beautiful, kind, and understanding my wife is?
Photo: Surj Gish
Surprisingly, the bike with a milk crate *isn’t* a KLR. Photo: Surj Gish.
An: Dirt Noob #2
My bike was loaded, I was all packed, but I still hadn’t fully committed to riding BBBB15. I’ve hardly even ridden our old KTM 525, and have virtually no experience riding dirt, aside from random gravel levee roads encountered while mistakenly following a GS on my Ducati.
And yet there I was, riding shotgun in Big Fancy, headed east on 108 to Long Barn Lodge. No turning back.
We arrived at the lodge late, got our rollcharts, t-shirts, and some trailside snacks. The riders meeting was early, but not so early that we couldn’t run to Alicia’s Sugar Shack for a super-delicious breakfast. After the meeting we geared up and headed out.
Instead of slabbing it to the trails, we took a fire road, and I got a taste of what I was in for. I almost got a free mudbath, then narrowly missed a rock massage.
We proceeded to the trails mapped out on the rollchart, trails I was told were fine for beginners like me. I throttled through silt, rocks, water, tree roots, and a constant cloud of dust from the people ahead of me. Late Saturday, my luck finally ran out when a treacherous boulder tricked me into pinning myself under my KTM.
Ever upbeat, I took this as a good opportunity to see if I could lift the bike by myself. Which it turns out I can. Fortunately.
Editor Surj found me shortly after, and we agreed this might be a good time for me to turn around and wait for some others who were starting to head back. The return ride went fast and easy thanks to Gwynne’s Baja-grown skills and guidance.
My bruises will heal, but my memory of this adventure will last forever. Count me IN for next year!
Photos: Surj Gish
J: KLR #2
My KLR650 is bigger than most typical dual-sport motorcycles and smaller than most adventure bikes. So it is often considered to be both a dual-sport and an ADV bike. After riding BBBB15 on my KLR, I can confidently say that it is not a dual-sport bike. And I’m not really a dual-sport rider.
When I ride on the dirt (and I’m not alone) the other riders are usually on bigger adventure bikes, approaching 600 pounds. In skilled hands they do surprisingly well on less-technical dirt roads and trails, but in this world of 600-pound adventure bikes, dirt riding is usually not about going fast, because crashing lots of means expensive noises, and because picking up a huge bike is very hard work, at best, and impossible to do by yourself very many times in a long day on difficult terrain.
Which a long-winded way of explaining why I ride my KLR slowly on the dirt. I’m the guy out there on the big fat KLR, standing on the pegs, creeping along at about walking speed, proud of my imaginary trials-rider-like low-speed bike-handling skills.
Meanwhile, most of the riders at BBBB15 event were on much smaller, lighter, technically street legal dirt bikes that mostly weighed around 300 pounds or less. They rode fast, had fun, dropped their bikes, occasionally crashed, and a few got hurt. But everybody, me included, had a great time.
Gwynne: The One With Actual Dirt Skills—Lots Of ‘Em!
Presumably still busy cleaning the oil off her back tire and the rest of her bike’s undercarriage. Damn ATK.